Santa Paula’s “King of Cool”

Steve McQueen – the “King of Cool”

Did you hear the one about the big Hollywood star who left the limelight behind to move into a dilapidated hangar at a small airport?

The punchline? There isn’t one. This actually happened in 1979 when legendary A-list actor and “King of Cool” Steve McQueen said adios to Hollywood and moved 75 miles away into a hangar at an airport in Santa Paula, California.


McQueen was born in Indianapolis during the Depression to an alcoholic mother and a father who abandoned the family soon after Steve was born. The troubled youth spent some time in a California reform school before drifting into a series of jobs ranging from carnie to lumberjack. He joined the Marines in 1947, and after several visits to the brig, he eventually became a soldier’s soldier serving in President Truman’s honor guard. After leaving the service, he began an acting career that included such hits as The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, Papillon, and The Towering Inferno. He was nominated for an Oscar for his work in The Sand Pebbles in 1966. By the mid-1970s he was the highest paid actor in the world.

The front of Steve McQueen's former "house."

McQueen made his own “Great Escape” from Hollywood, and moved into the hangar with his girlfriend Barbara Minty, along with a king-sized bed, a dining room set, and a portable TV. His new home allowed him to be near his beloved motorcycle and biplane. Later, his retirement would prove to be a bit more conventional when the couple moved about a mile from their former digs into an 1892 Victorian ranch house on South Mountain Road. Minty, who married McQueen in the living room of their new home, recently authored a book about their time together in Santa Paula called Steve McQueen: The Last Mile.

McQueen would only live on the 15-acre ranch for a few months before being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He passed away in November 1980 in a Mexican hospital. The house, near the Ozzy Osborn Par Three Golf Course (no lie), was recently placed on the market for $1.7 million.

About deadwrite

Freelance writer, film historian, taphophile View all posts by deadwrite

9 responses to “Santa Paula’s “King of Cool”

  • Kimi Stephens

    I wouldn’t mind living in Santa Paula. Although, I would prefer a *bit* more atmospheric digs, with perhaps some…oh I don’t know….LANDSCAPING? Is that so wrong? 🙂

  • teresa

    Thanks – love reading about Steve in all different kinds and ways. I’m glad people are still calling him the king of cool- he is the one and only!!!
    Can I please ask a questioned – Is there any thing happening for Steve’s 30th anniversay in November?

    • deadwrite

      That is an excellent question. Let me check with the folks over in Santa Paula on this and I will write about it in an upcoming blog. I appreciate the interest. Thanks, E.J.

      • deadwrite

        I was in Santa Paula today, and I inquired with the guy at the Chamber of Commerce and he said that nothing was planned for the anniversary. I put a bug in his ear that this would be a great event. Let’s see if anything comes of it. I’ll keep on them.

  • Peggy

    What an interesting piece! I always liked “The King of Cool” and had no idea he lived in a hanger. Thanks.

  • Brandy

    Another good book besides the Terrill bio is McQueens Machine’s by Matt Stone. I had mine signed at the Steve McQueen auto show they have every year in Rancho Cucamonga, by Mr. Stone and Steve’s son Chad. I have pictures if you ever want to see them, McQueen is a real favorite of mine. His son is very nice and has had parts in some movies too, like the original Karate Kid.

    • deadwrite

      Nice piece of info. Thanks also for the pictures. When is the auto show?

      • Brandy

        Every June at the Boy’s Republic in Chino Hills, i dont know why i said Rancho. So you just missed it 😦 It is put on by the Porsche 356 club. They kept some of the cars at the Petersen Auto Museum, i think thats where his 2 favorite porsches are kept. There is a really great story behind those cars. Chad’s eldest son has also got into acting, hes in some vampire show. He is named after his grandpa, but for SAG purposes goes by Steven R McQueen.

  • A Square for the “King of Cool” « Deadwrite's Dailies

    […] had written a DD post about the same time on McQueen’s last years, which were spent in the city of Santa Paula […]

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